Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Way We Were

As we approach the end of the year, for many it is a time of reflection.  We look back not only on this year, but on the end of years in times past.  We visit our memories; some pleasant, others not so much.

When times are difficult we tend to recall the ‘glory years’ when everything came easily, almost effortlessly, though we know that was not the case.  We find ourselves longing for the good ole’ days and melancholy starts to wash over us. 

When this happens we begin to get experience the paralysis of inaction and indecision.  We wonder how we can roll back the clock to see how good the emotions of success made us feel.  We stop leading and start reminiscing.

And if we have had a successful year, there is a natural tendency to be somewhat smug.  We have new experiences on which we can rest our laurels. We stop leading while we accept the accolades.

Both of these responses are normal under the circumstances.  But as a leader you have no time for these indulgences.  Your job must always be forward looking.  There are no such things as ‘future memories’.  You are in the ‘memories building’ business and it is one that has no end; it has only infinite possibilities.

This season, be certain to recall…reflect…rest…and rejoice.

But remember tomorrow is only a day away and others are counting on you to do your job so that they can do theirs.  It may not be fair but it is the reality.

My very best regards for health and success in the New Year!  I will talk with you again in January.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Let's call a spade a shovel.

The headline said that we are in a ‘post-truth’ era.  Not quite sure what the heck that is.
Then a story appeared on the news that reported on a ‘false news’ posting that appeared on Facebook.

Is it just me or has the whole world gone nuts.  In my Webster’s both ‘post-truth’ and ‘false news’ appear as definitions for the same word…LIES!

I mean, how hard is it to understand?  Frankly it is a binary proposition.  If it is not truth…it is a lie.  There are no fifty shades of gray here.

Have we really devolved so far that we are now sugar coating lies so, like medicine, we can swallow them more easily?  It used to be that only accounts receivable was required to put up with this nonsense.  You remember ‘…the cheque is in the mail…’ or ‘…I didn’t get an invoice…’  Kids told teachers that the dog ate their homework.

As the leader, you know how imperative it is that you conduct yourself with integrity.  If your word cannot be trusted then there are no absolutes.  You are simply presiding over controlled chaos. I strongly doubt that your employees want a new division of HR called ‘Fact Checkers’ to know which of your strategic plans are real and which are intended to waste your time.

Take the high road.  Be honest, be consistent and be accountable.  Don’t accept as a ‘fait accompli’ this notion of post-truth.  Ensure that your team, your division, your company stands for something worth defending. 

I am reminded again of an oft-repeated quote:

‘…Reputation is what others think of you; character is what you are…’

Push back against the trend before it becomes the norm. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Solomon's choice.

I have written frequently about the need for leaders to exhibit character even at the expense of skills.  That said, one cannot lead effectively when they are devoid of competencies.  This begs the question as to what skills are the most important, not only for a leader, but for the leader’s aspiring leaders.

Clearly the answer will vary depending upon the specific responsibilities of the role; the nature of the products or services you provide; or the type of people who report to the leader.  But I would submit to you that there is one skill, one quality, one competence that not only overrides the others but also is transferable to any position.  That quality is wisdom.

It is no coincidence that the Biblical King Solomon, when asked what gift he wanted, asked for wisdom above wealth, fame or even good health.

Wisdom is commonly recognized as a combination of knowledge and experience.  But a wise person can be identified well before the accumulation of either.  Telltale signs include the following:
·        A willingness to say ‘…I don’t know…but I want to learn…’
·        Someone who listens more than they talk.
·        Someone who shares the moment of success.
·        The person who pulls others up alongside, not down to their level.
·        The ability to have an open mind, but grounded opinions.
·        One who is not swayed by the flavor of the day.

Clearly there are other indicators of wisdom even when that wisdom is young.  As the leader you want to identify and then nurture these future leaders.  Engage them and challenge them to grow into their potential.  As your behavior models  and guides them, your whole organization will benefit.

Wisdom does not imply infallibility.  We all make mistakes or fail from time to  time.  The wise mitigate the consequences because they made a considered decision to begin with and they don’t ride a mistake to its’ logical conclusion in the misguided hope of a miraculous recovery.

As you build your team of leaders, look for character first.  But then seek wisdom. You should not be surprised to see the latter as a function of the former.  

Saturday, 26 November 2016

At the risk of repeating myself...

The foundation of authentic leadership is built on certain qualities which are independent of the role to which you have arrived.  These are issues of character more than competence and they are transferable from job to job, company to company, or industry to industry.  They give credibility to everything else about you, your strategies and your performance.  And while none of us is perfect, authentic leaders strive daily to meet the highest definition of these attributes.

Without an order of priority, for there is none, these pillars are:
1.   Truth
2.   Accountability
3.   Ethical conduct
4.   Moral conduct
5.   Legal Conduct

Increasingly these qualities seem to be under attack.  And if not attack, then most certainly they are being eroded. It is not external forces which are bringing about this demise.  Rather it is the internal nature of those in positions of leadership who no longer recognize the importance of maintaining a character above reproach; they no longer subscribe to the foundational qualities that others admire and respect.  

Today, too many leaders have loosed the chains of responsibility and have become accountable only to themselves.  In so doing, they put all of us in jeopardy. 

When truth becomes abstract, it ceases to be truth.  When morals, and ethics and even the law become subjective or situational, standards cease to exist.  When leaders are excused for their bad behaviour rather than being held accountable for it, how do we fairly hold others to account?

In the past decade, personal economic malaise has prompted some to question what is moral; what is ethical; what is legal; what is truth?  It is as if our economic well-being should define that which, in reality, is unalterable. Morals, ethics, laws and truth may sometimes be considered difficult.  But they must not be left at the side of the road as baggage too heavy to carry.

Over 250 years ago, Edmund Burke stated “…the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing…”  We are in times that require good people to demand better from our leaders, whether they are economic or political; educators or religious.  We don’t lack the right perspective; we lack commitment to speak out these opinions. 

As a leader, you are in a particular position to positively influence others simply by the reflection of your character.  Your willingness to be held accountable, and to hold others accountable, raises the bar within your sphere of influence.

We need more leaders to act like leaders.  And we need it NOW! We need leaders who are willing to ‘call out’ others who are not maintaining the standards.  We need leaders who recognize that leadership is a privilege, not a birthright, and that it comes with responsibilities towards a greater good.

I encourage all leaders to stand up…to stand out…and demand from both themselves and other leaders that their example be one of dignity of character.  Model it to your sphere of influence.  RAISE THE BAR for everyone.  Only good can come of it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Step Back from the Edge

I woke up this morning and saw the sun rise as it did yesterday, and for millennia of days before that.  There were no reports of hell having frozen over.  No flying pigs have been reported.  At least in my area of the world, the sky remains firmly above my head.

Fundamentally there have been no changes to my life.  It is, as they say, business as usual.  Oh, except for the fact that the US did the unexpected – to some, the unthinkable – they elected Donald Trump as their next President.

Several months ago I posted a blog entitled “Lessons from the Donald” (

Things are seldom as bad as they look, nor as rosy as expected.  As the leader, your main responsibility now is to keep your team focused on the present.  No one can state with certainty how the next four years will unfold because Trump steadfastly stuck to a platform essentially devoid of policy specifics.

 If things are working well for you, stay the course.  If results are less than planned, the election outcome does not change your responsibility to respond to the competitive environment and plan accordingly.  You cannot use the election as either crutch or an incentive.  It is one moment in time.  Don’t lose perspective.

I did not have a vote.  Therefore I have nothing to celebrate or mourn.  I have only something else to consider in making my plans.

Your leadership role is unchanged.  Deal with the facts, not the emotions of events.  Be the calm in the midst of the storm.  Those who look to you for leadership are perhaps more in need of it today than last week.  Rise above the noise; maintain clarity of mind; pursue the passions that have motivated you in the past.  Deal with the imperfect just as you always have.  

At the end of the day, the moon will again take its place in the heavens to be followed by sun in the morning.  T’was always thus.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Face in the Mirror

The Face in the Mirror

When we look in the mirror we see what others cannot.  We see the flaws; we see shortcomings; we see the mistakes; we see the fear; we see the doubts.  The mask prevents others from seeing through…from seeing truth.

I have often heard people say ‘…I’m really not ready for this promotion…’ or ‘…what were they thinking to give me this job…’

Their concern is that ‘they’ see only the mask.  ‘They’ must not see what is actually going on inside.  ‘They’ are making a mistake because ‘they’ lack all the facts.

Spoiler Alert!  They are not nearly as foolish as you think.  The mask may indeed hide some flaws.  It does for everyone.

But it also hides from your view some of the talents and skills that others see in you.  The quiet confidence; the supportive nature; the strength others draw from your character. All of these things, and more, are often hidden from our own view because we cannot see past our flaws. Our doubts obscure or cloud a full view of our competencies. We focus on what we cannot do rather than what we can do.

If you have been tapped on the shoulder for promotion, fear not.  Those in positions of responsibility know that no one enters a new role as a fully finished product.  But they see the potential and they are committed to your success.

So embrace with confidence the opportunity that awaits. Be filled with the knowledge that they have seen through the mask and like what they see. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

S-A; for some a blessing; for others a curse.

Regular readers will know that I am biased towards character over competence when it comes to essential leadership qualities.   I speak frequently of accountability, integrity and passion as leading traits of those who inspire others to the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Fundamental to these leadership qualities is an often overlooked and poorly understood art.  And it is something which can be either a blessing or a curse.  I speak of self-awareness.

The best explanation of self-awareness that I could find expressed it this way.
Self-Awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self- Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.  

The reason that the best leaders rate highly on this trait is because they are confident enough to go through the self-examination process and admit weaknesses.  They are then willing to work on improving these areas.  As a result, they continue to improve their overall leadership quotient and they enter a phase of continuing improvement.  The more they are willing to change and improve, the better they become.  The better they become, the more confident that they are in looking deeper. Thus they are blessed by their efforts.

Poor leaders go through the process and then deny their weaknesses. These leaders typically respond in one of several ways.

Some simply bully.  Rather than accept a need to change, they forcefully impose themselves on others.  As is true with most bullies, they are masking weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Some will get defensive.  Objective feedback that is critical of the leader provokes an agitated and angry response.  The walls go up rather than down.  It becomes a case of self-preservation at all costs.

Some will become controlling…or more controlling.  By focusing on the details and micro managing, it is easier to ignore the elephant in the room. 

Some become passive-aggressive.  These people abhor confrontation and so they will say or do whatever it takes to side step the issue.  They hope that by offering tacit agreement to an issue that it can be subsequently ignored and forgotten.

Others will become grandiose.  By embellishing the situation they feel that they can overwhelm the character trait(s) that needs attention.  They try to become bigger thus making the issue at hand smaller.  We know this as the ‘emperor’s clothes’ response.

Finally, they deny or make excuses.  By pointing fingers, playing the ‘blame game’ or trying to humiliate others, these people will do whatever they can so as to not face the truth.

Any of these responses demonstrate the curse of self-awareness.  If you are unwilling to address that which requires a remedy, the disease just continues to eat away.  There cannot be a cure until and unless there is treatment of the symptoms.

Do you have the courage to proactively practice and positively respond to the issues that self-awareness will expose? No one knows you better than yourself.  You can be your most accurate critic and your best encourager.  But there are consequences.  

The best leaders welcome the challenge and endorse the process!

A blessing or a curse?  It really just boils down to your response.    

Friday, 14 October 2016

This little light of mine.

Case A

I received one of those emails from Nigeria announcing that I had won a lottery.  All I needed to do was to send $1000 in advance to cover the legal charges and then the millions would be deposited to my account. 
Like most other ‘winners’, this email went straight to the trash file.  I recognized the poorly disguised attempt at a cash grab.  In North America we call it fraud.  Elsewhere it may be considered business as usual or simply buyer beware.  If the perpetrators were found here, the full weight of the law would punish with both hefty fines and significant jail time.

Case B

I read about the issue at Wells Fargo Bank and the creation of thousands of fake accounts and credit cards.  Apparently there was a serious executive driven mandate to grow ‘sales’ and this led to the unauthorized creation of these accounts.  Management and executives knew about the practices but used the statistics to convince the stock market and other shareholders that the strategic plans that they had put in place were exceeding expectations.  As you might expect, the stock value responded well to these representations and those in positions of authority were richly rewarded.

When this issue came fully to light, over 5000 employees were dismissed for their roles in the fake account scandal.  Subsequently, the President of the retail branch and the corporate CEO have been forced out.  Sadly they have had to forfeit $19 million and $40 million respectively in bonuses earned on the basis of these fake accounts.  Both will still leave their positions with compensation packages that exceed $100 million so there will be no need for tag sales to support their retirement.

Help me understand the difference?  In Case A, the actions, while unscrupulous, are done in such an unsophisticated manner that the likelihood for any substantial success was relatively low.  Yet we would have no difficulty in prosecuting those behind the scam if we could manage to get them into our jurisdiction.

In Case B, the actions were systemic and clearly designed to deceive even sophisticated investors.  The ultimate beneficiaries were those already receiving outrageous compensation packages.  And yet, just as during the financial meltdown that precipitated the current economic malaise in which we find ourselves, the real criminals are being allowed to walk away free and unfettered; reputations may be tarnished but bank accounts are preserved.

The US election is demonstrating just how tired voters are of the political ‘establishment’ and the entitlement attitude that prevails in Washington.  It will be interesting to see how much longer it takes for the same level of disenchantment to take hold in the corporate world before these fraudulent ‘leaders’ are treated like the common criminals that they really are.  From my perspective it is long past time.

The Takeaway

Positions of authority come first and foremost with a higher degree of accountability.  I don’t discriminate this level of accountability on the basis of your scope of responsibility.  If you lead a team or a division or a company, you are still in a greater position of influence than those who report to you.  Your conduct is always the gold standard for them.  

Poor examples abound. Use your opportunity to shine.  We need more lights in this area that is too poorly lit by the entitled.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

"...second fiddle..."

As I reviewed the recent Vice President’s Debate, I was struck by how much more accomplished, or at least palatable, these two candidates were when compared to their Presidential running mates.  Americans, and frankly most of the rest of the world, wish that there were better choices for President.  The debate provided some small comfort in knowing that the person in the second fiddle seat is probably better suited for the office than either of the primary candidates.

What about in your case?  How strong is your second fiddle?  Have you the confidence of leadership to actually groom someone who may be your equal?  Do you have the resolve to install a successor who could be even better than you?

The fact of the matter is that this is a difficult task but a necessary one.  The most effective leaders know and understand the consequences of poor succession planning and therefore face this issue head on.  The less effective ones prefer to build a legacy at which all will wonder in awe and only hope that the second seat will learn to grow into the position when the torch is passed.

The irony is this.  Those who build an organization that is passed on to a poor successor will not be remembered for what they built, but rather for the regression that occurred afterwards.  In contrast, the leader who valued the company over their ego will be remembered as the consummate builder because things continued to grow, despite their absence.

Regardless of the significance of the position of leadership you hold within your organization, you are the maestro, you are the conductor responsible for ensuring a smooth transition to the next…to your successor.  How well you do this speaks not only of your competencies as leader, but even more importantly, of your character.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

"...lower for longer..."

Most pundits point to December 2007 as the start of the Great Recession.  Four years later, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund, suggested that we were likely in the midst of a lost decade of economic growth.

Another five years on from that comment, we stand here only a year away from the end of that lost decade.  What are the chances that things will return to ‘normal’ in that time? 

Oil prices have collapsed; zero or even negative interest rates are not propelling economies; China’s growth has slowed; Brexit and other like sentiments are gaining ground.  Seems to me that the ‘lower for longer’ mantra is spot on.  As Dorothy realized in the Wizard of Oz, ‘…we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto…’  A new normal is evolving but that process is nowhere near complete.

As the leader, what is your priority?  How can you make the biggest impact in motivating your staff to excel? 

From my perspective it boils down to one thing.  You must have passion for what you do.  I am not talking about a Pollyanna view of the world; for certain you must be realistic.  But within almost every business there lies opportunity for success. The opportunity may be modest but it exists.  Passion for that opportunity is needed to propel you and your team to success.

A great plan is helpful but without commitment to the goal, it is like an un-rung bell.  As the leader, others are looking to you for the inspiration that they lack.

Do you enter each day with the singular purpose of being the point of inspiration for others?  Do you lead with a purposeful passion for excellence?  Will you be the example and the standard by which others will judge themselves?

It is not a task for the weak of heart.  But that is why you are the leader, not the follower.  Whether you like it or not; whether you feel like it or not; whether you want to or not…none of this matters.  It is YOUR responsibility and others depend on you to come through.

Step forward with passion and lead.  And be prepared to be that focal point for some time.  I expect that we will remain in this ‘lower for longer’ framework for some time!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

‘…plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…’

Much has been written to try to define the differences between generations in the workforce.  Specifically, commentators look to make value distinctions.   Baby boomers want this; Gen X wants that; Millenials yet again something different.  The suggestion is that each successive generation is looking for something unique in their experience and thus the need for different leadership/management styles in order to maximize productivity and job satisfaction.

I beg to differ. 

As a Baby Boomer, I wanted to have essentially the same things I hear Millenials seeking.  Millenials want to be recognized for their work; they want their ideas to be thoughtfully considered; they want to make the world a better place for everyone.  As they look for employment, sense of purpose, professional development, mentoring and aligned values are all top of mind criteria.

Frankly, these are all Apple Pie aspirations.  Except for the most cynical amongst us, most people of any generation hold these views.  They are shared human desires.  Who does not want recognition for work well done…who does not want to have their ideas and input seriously considered…don`t we all instinctively want to leave the world better than the place we entered.

I submit that what have really changed are the attitudes and capabilities of those in positions of authority and responsibility.  While there is much yet that needs to be done in terms of professionalism, transparency, gender equality and integrity, the fact of the matter is that the needle has moved significantly over the past century.  Workplaces are now far more inclusive and responsive.  Managers and leaders are better educated, better trained and better supported than ever before.  This breeds self-confidence and thus the ability to consider others’ opinions without feeling attacked or threatened.

To be certain, communication techniques have changed and younger generations must be motivated in ways which are meaningful to them.  But really, hasn’t that always been the case.  The ‘next’ generation always feels that they have been blessed with insight and wisdom that is lacking in their superiors.

To them let me simply quote from that sage of yesteryear, Mark Twain.

“…When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years…”

Your leadership style and messaging techniques may be different - must be different - depending upon your audience.  But again, that has always been the case as no two individuals respond similarly regardless of their generation.  What is most important though is that you stay 'on message' because the team must be unified in their understanding of both the purpose and the process.  Make that your priority and generations become much less meaningful.

Friday, 24 June 2016

A noun or an adjective

Recently I had the misfortune of dealing with the customer service department of my telco, TV , cellular and internet provider.  My costs had gone up unexpectedly and my inquiries led to the fact that loyalty credits that I had been receiving had been canceled.  Customer service could only advise me what had happened, they could not reverse it and so I was transferred to the loyalty department.  My complaint was dealt with by an employee with 20 years experience who told me that I simply did not understand their need to make a profit.  He transferred me to customer retention. That is the group that grovels, apologizes and promises while throwing cash at the issue in an attempt to reconcile.

By way of contrast, carpets are dropped off at our store every two weeks.  The delivery rep is pleasant, he arrives on time and he smiles as rolls up the dirty mats then spreads the new ones. He thanks us each time he is in.

My telco provider bills me $3600 a year.  The mats cost under $500.  The telco looks at the customer as an adjective.  The mat company views me as a noun.  Do you see the difference?

The telco is all about segmenting their service responsibilities.  We are treated as if we are something that is broken and needs repair.  Calls are directed to repair/support - home phone, internet, mobility, television, customer. So 'customer' is simply the adjective that describes the nature of service that needs to be addressed.

The mat company recognizes that they exist to serve the customer.  Delivering clean mats is not 'customer service'.  Rather it is serving the customer.  We are of object of their affection.

This is not just a matter of semantics.  It is all about how you view your client base.  How often have you heard the refrain '...this business would be a lot easier if we did not have all these customers to serve...'

As the leader you must instill a sincere sense of urgency with regards to how to treat your customer base.  If your clients are adjectives you are providing customer disservice.  Your client's satisfaction must be the object of all you do and that priority must begin at the top of the house.  If you are disconnected from the client, regardless of how large your customer base is,  that is the message your employees will communicate.  

When you treat your clients as adjectives, your employees with throw the company under the bus whenever any dissatisfaction is expressed.  And why not?  They are simply reflecting the values you have established.  When customers are the primary focus then fewer issues arise because you will have anticipated and prevented them from occurring.

As in most aspects of leadership, it is a matter of choice.  Is your customer a priority, the object of your affection.  Or are they a nuisance that, like a squeaky wheel, needs to be serviced from time to time.



Sunday, 29 May 2016

Start in the Corners

As many companies approach their fiscal mid-year it is not uncommon to pause and evaluate how they are doing against their objectives.  They determine whether or not changes need to be made to the strategies that they implemented some months ago.  The companies that do this best are the ones that start in the corners.  Let me explain.

Some years ago I spoke with an executive consultant who had broad experience in the Far East.  He said that manufacturing in some countries was more difficult than others because of cultural practices. This is the example he described.

In country A, when it came time to clean the house the process started in the middle of the room.  Diligently, the dust and dirt was neatly swept into the corners where it was out of sight. 

In country B the process was in the reverse.  Cleaning started in the corners and the dirt was swept to the middle of the room.  From there the dust pan removed it outdoors.

To the unseen eye, both rooms were clean.  It was only when the windows or doors were opened and the wind blew in that the difference was noticeable…the consequences clear.

If your plans are not working out as anticipated, don’t look at the issues in the middle of the room.  More often than not, they are only symptoms of the problems. Instead, look behind the curtains and in the corners of your room to find the fundamental flaws in your plan.  Bring that which is unseen out and into the open for critical review. 

It may prove difficult, even embarrassing, to acknowledge that you did not start with a `clean` slate that was capable of supporting your ambitions.  But until you address these underlying issues, nothing that you try to do will have a reasonable chance of success.

Do you have the strength of character as the leader to admit your error and clean the room properly?  Or will you continue to push the dirt to the corners, out of sight, until revealed by the breeze which inevitably blows through.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Three C's of Hiring

One of the most important tasks that you are called upon to complete in your leadership role is that of  building at team.  At the end of the day, it is not about you accomplishing objectives but rather your team fulfilling their respective responsibilities that all contribute to the results of the whole.  So selecting the right team members is of critical importance.

Broadly speaking, there are three key components to the process.

1.  Competence.   

Begin by fully describing the duties of the position that you seek to fill.  Then determine the skill set that you believe is required to meet your expectations.  These become the minimum requirements that you will consider.  It is important that you define these issues clearly and completely as you will likely be presented with candidates with similar but different skill sets and you may be tempted to accommodate their abilities.  The interview process is an emotional one for both the candidate and the employer.  Because you have established your criteria during an unemotional time and have done so with proper reflection and input from others, these must remain your benchmark. Therefore be confidant that your needs are properly expressed and look for skill sets that meet your minimum requirements.

2.  Chemistry

Teams succeed because everyone has a role through which they contribute.  Recognizing this, you must find candidates whose skill sets not only fulfill your requirements but which also complement the skills of other team members.  This should be an outcome of defining your expectations.

Chemistry is a broad term to remind you that skills, personalities and as well as other factors need to be part of your decision.  If your company highly values moral and ethical behavior, why would you introduce someone whose character is not consistent with these values.  Likewise, if your approach is to build and maintain long term relationships with your client base, you really don't want or need someone who is a hit-and-run specialist.

When you try to incorporate an individual into the wrong culture, you are headed for disaster.  Some organizations are large enough to tolerate a bit of a misfit.  But as a rule, square pegs in round holes do not work.

3.  Compromise

Nothing good ever happens when you compromise in the hiring process.  Placing a body simply for the sake of filling a position is far worse than leaving it open for a longer period of time. But this happens when we let emotions get in the way  and we react to pressure rather than holding to the principles that we have built.   If you have been unable to find the right person to fill the role, don`t hire the person who, by default, is the least of the evils.  Instead, return to the criteria that you first established and determine if these needs are still properly expressed.  If that is the case, hold on to your goal.  The consequences are far more than appear on the face of it.  For example:
  • A compromise means that you have hired less than you require.  You are now faced with the wasted costs of recruiting and training; you have delayed hiring the right person; and you face the termination expense once you accept reality.  
  • A compromise opens the door for questions both internally and externally.  Clients are likely to ask `what were you thinking`while employees question your ability to make sound judgments.  Your standards are only as high as the lowest that you will accept.
  • The wrong chemistry can make the whole workplace a toxic place.  Can you really afford the impact of lost productivity from the existing workforce whose efforts are disrupted by the lack of chemistry.
It is not always easy to find the right person to fill a gap in your organization.  But good companies attract - and retain - good employees.  Likewise, those who are willing to compromise the hiring process for the sake of expediency will also get what is coming to them.  

It is your choice.  Is it really that hard of a decision...

Friday, 22 April 2016

5% Too many

How would you react if you knew that the airline you chose sported a safe landing percentage of 96%?  Before you answer let me remind you that there are about 100,000 flights per day worldwide.

Or how would you feel if your doctor's diagnosis was accurate 96 times out of 100?  You would likely not book Monday morning or Friday afternoon appointments...

If the bridge you were about to cross had a sign that said "...the engineer for this bridge graduated in the 85th percentile..." you might be tempted to look at the car behind you and say '...after you, please...'

Our desire is that performance in these fields is 100%.  But recognizing that these are all skills based situations, we know that perfection is simply not attainable.  Best effort is what we hope for, along with a little luck.

But how do our expectations change when it is a matter of character and not competency?  Don't we rightly expect more?

What, then,  are we to make of the results of a recent Ernst & Young survey that indicated that 95% of Canadian CEO's and CFO's responded that they would adhere to behavior that was legally, morally and ethically responsible.  This includes properly reporting revenue and expenses; not engaging in brides or other types of corruption; and not turning a blind eye to activities like child labor. (Apparently Canada scored very high in this survey.)

Wow, one out of twenty confesses that they would cheat in order to gain an advantage or to make performance look better than it is.  It strikes me that the number may be low because these are people admitting, in an anonymous survey, to a willingness to cheat.  How many others had their fingers crossed as they answered the question...

The reality is that there is NO ROOM for a failure of ethics in the Boardroom.  There cannot be ethics  that you exercise based on circumstances or the behavior of a competitor or the need/desire to secure a contract.  And yet 1 in 20 thinks it is OK.

Don't take the sting out of that by asserting some greater good can come out of it; that the order keeps many employed or that others were offering bribes too. Once Pandora's Box has been opened, literally all hell has broken loose.

In some jurisdictions it is considered acceptable to turn a blind eye; to grease the palm; to endorse corruption,  But none of that makes it RIGHT.

As leaders, we have an individual and a collective responsibility to always do that which is legally, morally and ethically correct.  'Situational ethics' cannot find a safe harbour in our behavior because 'situational ethics' is the same as no ethics.

Five percent of Canadian boardrooms apparently think otherwise.  Let's expose them for what they are...CHEATERS.  

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Hold your nose!

I am an unapologetic capitalist.  Capitalism in a democracy works, in a perfect world.  And short of a benevolent dictator, it is likely the best we can expect. To that end I subscribe to wealth creation as a viable motivator.

I have no opposition to inventive, creative, risky and unique initiatives.  To be certain, these are the types of activities that propel us...usually forward but sometimes not.  I applaud those who are willing to fail in the attempts to succeed.

What I despise are those who use other peoples capital - be it financial, emotional or time -in vainglorious efforts because these people care not about the consequences.  And there are always consequences.  Sadly, the net seldom catches all the innocents who fall while perpetrators somehow push the eject button and parachute to safety before the crash.

Just this week Goldman Sacks agreed to a penalty in excess of  $5 billion US for trading activities in the period of 2005-2007.  Further costs will increase their payout to over $6 billion.  In so doing they join a celebrated list of offenders that include J.P. Morgan Chase ($13 billion); Bank of America ($16 billion); Citibank ($7 billion) and Morgan Stanley ($3.2 billion).  Their collective activities provided significant fuel for the fire that continues to smolder in the world economy.

Yet despite these record payouts, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON WAS HELD ACCOUNTABLE and none face any prosecution.  None have repaid obscene bonuses earned from these despicable actions. They all pushed the eject button in time.

As a partial consequence, for almost a decade we have been mired in a period of global  economic stagnation. Politicians, bureaucrats and economists have not been able to find the formula to remedy matters.  And now we have the Panama Papers which outline the economy of the super-rich and offer insights to their tax avoidance activities.  Some estimates suggest that the amount of money hidden away in these 'off-shore' tax havens may reach as high as $37 trillion.  That is an unfathomable amount.  Here it is expressed in numerical fashion.


Even if this figure is high by some multiple (it could just as easily be low because the law firm exposed by the papers is only the fourth largest provider of these tax havens), it is an obscene amount. For purposes of context consider that the global Gross Domestic Product is estimated to be about $75 trillion.  So the money hidden may represent half of global GDP.

Keep in mind two important facts about this amount.  The first is that this is the amount that is HIDDEN.  It does not include the amounts that the account holders publicly declare. These are individuals whose wealth exceeds the requirements of any person over several lifetimes. Regardless, they are fully capable of paying taxes without impinging on their ability to maintain their lifestyles. The other account holders are crooks.

Secondly, these funds are not working towards global economic activity, apart from the lawyers and bankers who administrate these funds.  Were it otherwise we would see their contributions and they would be more likely subject to proper tax consideration. The reality is that these funds are in excess of the needs of the account holders and thus can afford to sit in relative dormancy.

It is impossible to determine what impact the tax on these funds would have on health, education or infrastructure spending.  Suffice to say that it would be significant...

My takeaway from these two issues?

Our problem is not one of wealth creation so much as it is a problem of wealth distribution.  For every public figure like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet who are openly declaring their wealth and treating it as a public asset, there are tens or hundreds of thousands who refuse to acknowledge their responsibility to return to society that which is due.

In some perverted way they feel entitled to the funds in their possession while ignoring the fact that their wealth has simply been the accumulated transfer of the 'wealth' from millions - perhaps billions - of every day citizens. We are those who have transferred money from our pockets to the pockets of these super rich simply through the purchase of some every day staple of life, be it bread, rice, fuel or some other necessity that flows upward to those who own the conglomerates.

Trickle down economics is just a fantasy.  The super rich do not spend more because they have more. They simply accumulate  more. The truth is that economies grow when the least of us is able to make purchases because these funds naturally flow upward.

Consider, when a car company invests in a new plant that creates 1000 new jobs, economists suggest that the actual impact is the creation of an additional 5000-6000 jobs.  There is a 'multiplier' effect due to all the other products and services that are needed to support the new plant.

What then if only half of that $37 trillion was repatriated in the form of tax and used to assist the least of those in society; we would be injecting as much as 20%  more into the global GDP.   The multiplier effect would drive that impact in a staggering way.  And the primary beneficiaries would be the super wealthy because they already own the majority positions in the companies which grow or manufacture the goods that will be purchased.

We have enough wealth, just as we have enough food and water,  It is a matter of fairness and distribution.

Our leadership at both a political level and at a corporate level continue to fail us.  They have led us into recession because of greed, plain and simple.  Truthfully it is an oxymoron to call them leaders.  In reality they are self-serving expensive suits.

And here is the real catch-22.  Other CEO's should be publicly condemning the actions of these Wall Street cheaters.  But to do so means disrupting the 'old boys club', potentially making it more difficult to access funds when they are needed for mergers, acquisitions or other purposes.

Politicians are wary to upset the off-shore apple cart because these account holders are also the largest contributors to their election campaigns.  Remember too that it was the politicians who established the governance that allows these tax avoidance schemes to exist in the first place and revelations suggest that many of them are profiting from the schemes themselves.

As an authentic leader it is not enough to be ``legal``.  You must also pass the ethical and moral smell test.

And these all stink!

Friday, 11 March 2016

Are you missing the Ms?

Do you recognize any of these Company names?  They are all members of the Fortune 500 and all have female CEO's.   In Canada, we have equally talented female CEO's:Heather Reisman at Chapters-Indigo; Linda Hazenfratz at Linamar; Karen Sheriff at BellAliant among many others.

Can you then explain to me again why you don't think that women are fit for executive positions?  Or for any position of responsibility in your business...

The fact of the matter is this.  There is no level of responsibility that cannot be done equally as well by a woman as by a man.  And with the greater emphasis being placed on emotional intelligence today, it is clear that women should have an advantage over men when being considered for positions of leadership.

None of this should come as a surprise.   By 2017, more graduating doctors will be women.  The same is true for lawyers.  Over 40% of MBA graduates at the leading schools are women.  Interestingly, women are graduating more MBA's in the influential categories of marketing, communications, accounting and management; the fields that more typically stream to executive roles.

Overall performance on gender equality in the boardroom is an international embarrassment.  We can blame the old boys network for that.  However there is no excuse to perpetuate the myth.  Not only is it demeaning and degrading to over half the population, it just makes bad - no, horrible - business sense to deny yourself access to over half of the eligible candidates for important roles in your company.

Ignore the truth at your peril.  As in every circumstance, the best will be chosen early.